According to Dr. Jonathan Greenburg, Crash Might Have Been Avoided With Alternative Treatment Options

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According to sleep apnea specialist Dr. Jonathan Greenburg, the recent freighter crash off of San Francisco Bay could have been alleviated with sleep apnea testing and treatment.

According to sleep apnea specialist Dr. Jonathan Greenburg, the recent freighter crash off of San Francisco Bay could have been alleviated with sleep apnea testing and treatment.

The crash, which occurred on November 7, 2007, is linked to a sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea, which afflicts over 25 million Americans, is characterized by chronic loud snoring, followed by periods of abrupt silence. The disorder occurs when the tongue falls back throat and obstructs the airway. This blockage causes the snorer to stop breathing. This pattern can occur hundreds of times during the night. Because the sufferer of sleep apnea does not reach deep, restorative sleep, the person struggles to stay alert and even awake when performing critical tasks, such as driving.

The pilot of the ship that crashed in November was utilizing prescription medication for sleep apnea. It was suggested by the Coast Guard investigator that both the sleep disorder and medication could have caused impaired judgment and daytime sleepiness. The crash that resulted from this impairment is responsible for spilling 50,000 gallons of fuel into San Francisco Bay and killing countless bird and aquatic animals.

Sleep apnea and the sleep deprivation it causes is blamed for countless accidents on both American and international roadways. A recent study published in the British journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, indicated that individuals who are sleep deprived cause well over half of all accidents on the road. It goes on to say that persons who drive after being awake for more than 17 hours performed worse than those with a blood alcohol level of .05 or more.

While medication is one treatment for obstructive sleep apnea, it does not address the tongue, which is the root cause of the problem. According to Dr. Greenburg, whose thriving practice is located near Los Angeles, the most common sleep apnea treatment typically takes the form of CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) therapy. The treatment uses a mask, which forces air into the sufferer's nose. The air pressure causes the airway to remain open thereby allowing the patient to breathe normally.

One troubling statistic with regard to CPAP treatment is that more than half of patients are intolerant to the device. Sleeping medications do not treat sleep apnea.

Because of this, Dr. Greenburg often suggests the use of an oral appliance. Similar to an orthodontic retainer, the device works by holding the patients jaw forward thereby keeping the airway free from obstructions. "One device we have had particular success with is the FDA approved FullBreath appliance," indicates Dr. Greenburg. He states that this device is different from traditional appliances because it is custom fitted for the patient and has the added benefit of keeping the tongue from falling back which is the most significant problem with snoring and sleep apnea.

"We collect a variety of information including x-rays of the jaw and other structures in the mouth and throat and data regarding the amount of air that is moving through the airway. This helps us to custom design the appliance for the patient," Greenburg notes.

The FullBreath appliance offer new hope to patients who suffer from sleep apnea and could mean the difference between a good night sleep and a devistating accident in a ship, car, truck or even plane. "It is life changing for many of my patients," Greenburg proudly states. "Effective treatment can actually save a person's life, as well as prevent dangerous accidents," a solution much needed in a stressful, sleep-deprived world.


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